The Next Three Days is an action-suspense movie that follows John Brennan (Russell Crowe) as he plans his wrongfully convicted wife Lara's (Elizabeth Banks) escape from prison. The film takes place in Pittsburgh, and has a long windup as we watch John plot the breakout while simultaneously raising a young son and teaching at a community college.
The Viewer's Angle
The film is very well written and tightly paced, competently following the heist / escape plotline that we've heard before. John's tricks and turns are clever, and it is fun to watch him execute his plan. However, the performances fall rather flat, and a cameo by Liam Neeson only served to remind me how much more engaging similar material is in his hands. A lack of convincing chemistry between the leads, along with limited backstory on their characters, made it difficult to care if they succeeded. If anything, having to wait through the buildup, the main reason I wanted the escape to work was so I could see the payoff of all the planning. Extraneous characters to the story, a brother and sister-in-law, way more detectives than called for, and the most beautiful playground mom ever seen, end up prematurely diffusing some of the tension, which I find critical in a low-explosion film. Overall, a bit of a disappointment, and I'm probably going to check out Unstoppable this weekend to get my action itch scratched.
The Feminist's Angle
The Next Three Days is another damsel in distress story where the big, strong, and notably male action hero swoops in to save yet another defenseless woman. At the beginning, Lara is the more dynamic of the couple, and I was hoping that she would be John's copilot a la Mr and Mrs Smith. However, prison wears down Lara's spirit (understandably), and she morphs into a hopeless, depressed, even suicidal dead weight in the adventure. I must continue in my search for a female action star to follow in Angelina's footsteps.
Along more of a social justice dimension, I think it would be fair to say that most wrongfully convicted prisoners are not beautiful white women. For something more true to life, I suggest the acclaimed American Violet, based on the true story of Regina Kelley, falsely convicted of selling drugs. For more information on how false convictions are impacting people's lives in reality, look at The Innocence Project's website. It's truly unbelievable the injustices we put up with in our country.
So, I haven't found this season's action movie - but I will keep looking! Unknown, coming out in early 2011 (trailer below) looks pretty promising.